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EHDC prepares for consultants’ visit to launch process for preservation plan

Posted on June 14, 2019

By Tia Lyons
Staff Writer

The El Dorado Historic District Commission is preparing for its first meeting with out-of-town consultants who will be drafting a citywide historic preservation plan.

Representatives from the Lakota Group, an Illinois-based urban design firm that will draft the plan, are expected in town July 15 – 17 to meet with commissioners.

Elizabeth Eggleston, executive director of the EHDC, said Thursday that Lakota will send the itinerary for the visit, which will include a walking and driving tour of the city and taking photographs of sites, neighborhoods and properties around town.

“So, we can begin planning now,” Eggleston said.

In addition to the EHDC, Eggleston said Mayor Veronica Smith-Creer, Robert Edmonds, director of Public Works and the El Dorado Planning and Zoning Commission will be among those who will be invited to the meeting with Lakota next month.

A shareholders’ meeting, which will include more local groups — including the South Arkansas Historic Preservation Society, Main Street El Dorado, the Murphy Arts District and others — and public hearings will be scheduled later, Eggleston said, adding that Lakota is planning follow-up trips to El Dorado in the ensuing months.

“They’re talking about a trip in September so they can get to know the city and what the available resources are,” Eggleston said.

EHDC Chairman Linda Rathbun noted that the group’s next monthly meeting is scheduled for July 11.

After some discussion, commissioners agreed to forgo the meeting for the meeting with Lakota if no certificate of appropriateness requests are presented for the July meeting.

COAs are required for exterior work that will alter the historic and architectural character and significance of the El Dorado Commercial Historic District.

June 21 is the deadline to submit COA requests for the EHDC’s July meeting.

Rathbun said if any other items arise that require the commission’s immediate attention next month, the group can address them following the meeting with Lakota.

The project is being covered by a $42,000 grant from the Arkansas Historic Preservation Program — the largest Certified Local Government grant to ever be awarded to El Dorado and the largest to be awarded from a $100,000 pot that was available for this grant cycle — and a $10,000 match from the El Dorado Works tax.

The contract with Lakota maxes out at $46,574.

Identify properties

The citywide preservation plan will identify historic properties — including schools, churches and other commercial and residential properties — and neighborhoods throughout the city.

For example, Eggleston said she has been approached by a neighborhood group in the area of Jefferson and Church who have revivified their historic, residential properties and neighborhood.

Rathbun asked commissioners to think about neighborhoods and properties that could be included in the drive-through with Lakota next month.

“Just jot it down and send it to me and I can put it on the list,” Eggleston said.

Rathbun said the EHDC could gather useful information for its own mission and education/ awareness campaign during public hearings that will be held as part of the process to develop the preservation plan.

“Those workshops could be a major piece of public education for us,” Rathbun said.

Commissioner Diane Alderson asked how the plan would be implemented once it is completed.

“It’ll belong to city, so it’ll be up to the (El Dorado City Council),” Eggleston said.

Rathbun said the EHDC could make recommendations about potential historic preservation projects.

“It will be a community plan. It gives the community some teeth to go to the city council and say, ‘We’d like to take a certain action to preserve this neighborhood,’” Rathbun said.

Eggleston agreed, adding, “That’s where we come in. What we do is identify what we want to have surveyed next. It’s a road map for us, for what we — as a historic district commission when the grant cycle rolls around would like to write the grant for.”

Eggleston has also said the plan will be based on a comprehensive city planning study that was completed in 2001 by the University of Arkansas Community Design Center.

The study covered several topics that were tailored to the fit the needs of El Dorado, including affordable housing initiatives, infill projects, beautification, transportation/ walkability, gateways, rails-to-trails development, targeted industries/businesses, and public-private investment opportunities for such projects as a downtown parking garage and mixeduse development for Mellor Park Mall and the old Warner Brown hospital campus.

Scott Street, chief executive officer of Medical Center of South Arkansas, recently told the city council that MCSA is looking at reviving the old Warner Brown campus, possibly with a comprehensive mental health services program.

Eggleston said she has already submitted the UACDC study to Lakota, along with a number of other documents the firm has requested.

On Thursday, the EHDC reviewed the 11-page professional services agreement and scope of work with Lakota.

Eggleston also distributed copies of a letter sent by Catherine Barrier, CLG coordinator for the Arkansas Historic Preservation Program.

Barrier outlined milestones for the El Dorado project as they pertain to the terms of the CLG grant that was awarded by the state.

Initial public hearings must begin no later than Oct. 15; a draft of the preservation plan must be submitted to the AHPP by April 1, 2020 for review and approval, after which the city may submit the first invoice of up to $21,574 from Lakota; and the final draft submitted by July 15, 2020 for AHPP approval, after which an additional invoice of up to $15,000 may be submitted to the state for reimbursement to the city.

Tia Lyons may be contacted at 870-862-6611 or